After an environmental review the National Park Service has decided to go ahead with moving the Enchanted Valley Chalet, a popular backcountry shelter for hikers, before it can be destroyed by the shifting channel of the East Fork of the Quinault River.
The 1930s-era shelter is expected to be moved just a short distance away, but details about how and when it will happen haven’t been worked out yet.
“To avoid immediate environmental harm to the East Fork Quinault River and risks to threatened bulltrout and other aquatic resources, it is imperative that the chalet be moved away from the river bank before the fall rains begin,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “A second and more extensive planning and public review process will begin later this year, and will examine options for long-term disposition of the historic chalet.”
The Enchanted Valley Chalet is located 13 miles from the nearest road, deep within the Olympic Wilderness.
The chalet was constructed by Quinault Valley residents in the early 1930s, prior to establishment of Olympic National Park. The chalet served for several decades as a backcountry lodge and more recently, as a wilderness ranger station and emergency shelter. The chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
Photos shared by park visitors in early January showed that the main channel of the East Fork Quinault River had migrated to within 18 inches of the chalet. Last winter’s storms and high flows resulted in the Quinault’s main channel continuing to shift by at least 15 feet. Recent photographs show that the river has undercut the building by approximately eight feet.
Migration of the East Fork Quinault River’s channel is common in the loose, unconsolidated soils of Enchanted Valley. Storms, fallen trees, rockslides and simply the constant process of erosion can all cause the river to shift and carve a new channel.